OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Public school teachers in Oklahoma would be able to carry concealed firearms into their classrooms with less training than is now required under a bill that easily cleared a House committee on Wednesday.
The House Public Safety Committee voted 11-5 for the bill authorizing school districts to allow for armed school personnel if they have a concealed carry license.
“Any time you have a perpetrator with a weapon, the only reasonable response to that situation is to meet force with force,” said Republican Rep. Jeff Coody of Grandfield, who has introduced four other gun-related bills this year.
Passage of the bill, which now heads to the full House, came despite energetic opposition from Moms Demand Action, a group of volunteers wearing red T-shirts who are seeking to defeat several bills this session that loosen gun restrictions.
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“Arming teachers is an incredibly dangerous and shortsighted idea that teachers themselves largely oppose,” said Christine Jackson, one of the group’s leaders in Oklahoma. “Rolling back the training requirements for them to do so puts our kids in danger and doesn’t make our schools any safer.”
Under a law passed in 2015, districts can allow armed employees in schools, but only if they’ve completed peace officer training or armed security guard training, which requires at least 72 hours of instruction. But Coody said many employees don’t have the time or resources to complete such training, especially in rural parts of the state.
At least one district, Okay Public Schools in northeastern Oklahoma, already allows armed employees, and feedback from the community and staff has been entirely positive, said Superintendent Pete Hiseley.
“I’m comfortable with our policy, which reflects 72 hours of training,” Hiseley said. “But less training? I wouldn’t be in favor of that.”
The same committee also approved a separate bill by Coody, dubbed “constitutional carry,” that would authorize law-abiding citizens to carry a firearm in most places without a license.
While some states are seeking to further restrict gun ownership or ban certain types of weapons after a school shooting earlier this month in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead, Republican legislators in Oklahoma have introduced more than 40 bills this session to expand gun rights.
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